SIMON Atkins played his career game in the pros last night and helped Air21 post a 121-107 upset of Alaska that gave the Express a very slim chance of closing out their PBA Governors’ Cup campaign on a winning note at Mall of Asia Arena.
The rookie out of UAAP power La Salle hit all his six triple attempts on the way to 22 points—one better than the combined 21 he scored for almost the entire season—as the Express played with complete command against the Aces.
In ending their elimination round assignments with a 3-6 card, the Express have a chance—albeit very slim—of marching into a playoff for the last quarterfinal spot depending on what happens in last night’s second game pitting Barangay Ginebra against Talk ‘N Text.
Alaska closed out with a 4-5 card and will go into the playoffs as the seventh-ranked team with No. 2 San Mig Coffee as a quarterfinal foe. The Aces would need to beat the Mixers two straight games to advance to the Final Four.
For Air21 to keep on playing, the Tropang Texters, the losers of their last five games coming into last night, would need to beat the Gin Kings by at least 23 points for the Express to enter the playoff equation.
A win by Talk ‘N Text by less than that would necessitate a playoff for No. 8 between the Texters and the Gin Kings today, while a win by Ginebra would complete the playoff cast and would leave Air21 and TNT out in the cold.
“Too bad that our destiny right now is not in our hands,” Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said. “We’re hoping for a miracle in the second game.”
Atkins missed just one shot and Zach Graham scattered 27 points that went with 10 rebounds and six assists as the duo led the Express to their highest-scoring game this season.
The 6-of-6 clip by Atkins from beyond the arc also tied the all-time mark being held by the retired Glenn Capacio and Vic Pablo and Alaska’s Dondon Hontiveros and Air21 teammate Ren-Ren Ritualo.
AIR 21 121—Graham 27, Atkins 22, Yeo 21, Canaleta 16, Manuel 12, Custodio 10, Taulava 7, Sharma 4, Menor 2, Omolon 0.
ALASKA 107—McKines 43, Baguio 18, Thoss 17, Abueva 15, Casio 12, Dela Cruz 2, Reyes 0, Jazul 0, Eman 0, Espinas 0, Hontiveros 0, Belasco 0.
Quarters: 35-28, 63-54, 90-83, 121-107